From Walt Hazzard, their first representative during their expansion 1967-68 season, to Ray Allen
and Rashard Lewis
, their most recent selections this year, the Sonics have been well represented on basketball's highest individual stage, the NBA All-Star Game.
Chambers was an unlikely MVP.
In all, 20 Sonics players have been selected a total of 45 times to play in the All-Star Game. 16 times, those selections have been as starters. The Sonics have placed at least one player in 31 of the 37 All-Star Games in their history - including each of the last 12, the longest active streak in the NBA - and have had a pair of coaches on the sidelines a total of five times.
It all got started with Hazzard, an expansion draft pick and one of the NBA's leading scorers that season at 23.9 points per game. On the strength of that performance, Hazzard was chosen for the 1968 All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden in New York. In 20 minutes of action, he scored nine points, grabbed three boards and handed out three assists.
After the season, Hazzard was traded for another Western Conference All-Star, Lenny Wilkens. Wilkens would become the franchise's first superstar as well as the first of several players to make multiple All-Star appearances. Wilkens was an All-Star his first three seasons in Seattle, averaging 14.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists. Wilkens won the first of two Sonics All-Star MVP awards in 1971, when he scored a game-high 21 points (12 in the second quarter) on 8-for-11 shooting in the West's 108-107 victory.
The other All-Star MVP did it in storybook fashion. Tom Chambers wasn't even supposed to be an All-Star, but he was selected as an injury replacement for Houston's Ralph Sampson to give the host Sonics a representative. Chambers ended up starting and dominating. Chambers led the way as the West rallied to force overtime, scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter alone. He scored four more in overtime as the West pulled out a 154-149 win, finishing with a game-high 34 on 13-for-25 shooting. In front of his home fans, Chambers was picked as an unlikely MVP.
Naturally, the Sonics player with the most All-Star appearances is guard Gary Payton, who was selected to nine straight games between 1994 and 2003 (there was no All-Star Game in 1999 because of the NBA's lockout), and as a starter in 1997 and 1998.
Payton certainly had his memorable All-Star moments, mostly playing distributor. He averaged 9.4 points, 8.1 assists and 2.1 steals in his All-Star appearances. In 2002, Payton led the West with four three-pointers as the team set an All-Star record with 13. He also scored 18 points in the game, as he did in 1996. Payton handed out ten or more assists three times, with a high of 15 in 23 minutes in 1995. During his All-Star career, Payton is tied with Allen for the most three-point attempts of any player with 23.
Right behind Payton is center and current assistant coach Jack Sikma, who made seven straight All-Star appearances for the Sonics from 1979-1985. Sikma's most notable All-Star moment came in 1981, when he had a chance to tie the game and send it to overtime, but missed a three at the buzzer. His best game was in 1984, when Sikma put together a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds. All told, he averaged 7.4 points and 6.0 rebounds.
Payton handed out a game-high 15 assists as the West cruised to a 139-112 victory in 1995.
A pair of athletic power forwards who entered the NBA early made several All-Star appearances for the Sonics. Spencer Haywood was selected to the team from 1972-1975, three times as a starter, while Shawn Kemp
went from 1993-1997, the last four times as a starter. Kemp grabbed 12 boards during the 1994 game. Haywood averaged 12.0 points and 7.8 rebounds, putting up 23 points, 11 rebounds and five assists in 1974.
Some other players from the great Sonics teams anchored by Sikma got their chances as well. Gus Williams was selected in 1982 and 1983, and, like Sikma, also missed a chance to pull out a win when his own three was off with eight seconds to play in Ď82. Fred Brown, one of four Sonics with their jerseys retired, was picked in 1976, and Dennis Johnson, who Brown later backed up, went in 1979 and 1980, scoring 19 points and making seven of 13 shots the latter year. Lonnie Shelton, David Thompson and Paul Westphal - considered a bust because of injuries during his one season with the Sonics, but a 19-point scorer during his appearance - were all All-Star starters once apiece during the early 1980s.
Meanwhile, the Sonics third star during the 1990s, Detlef Schrempf, was selected in 1995 and 1997. In 1998, Vin Baker made his only Sonics All-Star appearance.
Unsurprisingly, those two Sonics squads, the ones of the late-70s and early-80s and those from the mid-90s, also produced the team's All-Star coaching appearances, by Wilkens (1979 and 1980) and George Karl (1994, 1996 and 1998, because of a subsequent rule that prevented coaches from coaching the All-Star team in consecutive years).
Karl had the most auspicious All-Star coaching berth in 1994. Making his All-Star debut, Karl took the game more seriously than most coaches, sending double- and triple-teams at center Shaquille O'Neal, then with the Orlando Magic. O'Neal finished 2-for-12 from the field, but Karl angered the young superstar and also lost the game, 127-119. In fact, Karl lost all three times he coached in the All-Star Game, while Wilkens split his two appearances.
At 34 points, Chambers had the most of any Sonics All-Star. His teammate, Dale Ellis, did threaten him in his only All-Star appearance in 1989. The noted sharpshooter hit 12-for-16 from the field and scored 27 points.
In recent years, the Sonics All-Star torch has been carried by Payton, the team's only representative from 2000 to 2003. With Payton gone, the player he was traded for, Allen, picked up where Payton left off in 2004, scoring 16 points and playing down the stretch of a 136-132 Western Conference victory. Allen will be joined in Denver this year by Lewis, the first time since 1998 the Sonics have had two representatives. Allen and Lewis promise to provide the Sonics many more All-Star memories in the years to come.